The Gdansk Time-Ball

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

After the prize of 20.000 pounds established by the British Parliament in 1714 for someone who would find an exact method of measuring the geographical longitude of a ship on the open sea and the victory of John Harrison’s “chronometers”, the navigation across the oceans changed a lot. However, since even the most exact chronometers erred a few seconds after a long journey, a lot of sea ports decided to have a time-ball (as we saw in Greenwich!) installed on a tower or a lighthouse.

The ball’s fall at noon let the captains adjust their ship’s chronometers before the next voyage.

The Gdansk ball was the first one in the Baltic Sea and it seems to be the only openwork time-ball in the World. It was first constructed in 1876 on the top of a wooden tower which was especially built although it was transferred to the new Nowy Port lighthouse in 1894 (the current location!).

The invention ofradio by Marconi at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries spelled the end of the time-ball era. The first radio station in Gdansk went into service in 1921, and when in 1929 a heavy strom ripped the Gdansk time-ball off the top of the lighthouse, it was never repaired. First in 2008, four years after the lighthouse itself was restored and opened to the public, was the famous Time-Ball reconstructed.

Photography by Carlos Dorce

Photography by Carlos Dorce

I think I’m going to look for other time-balls in the World. It seems to be very interesting!

Location: The Gdansk Time-Ball in Nowy Port (map)

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